Seven Questions with App.net Developers: @kosso

This is the latest in our series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

bli.msOur next developer is @kosso, who is currently living in Bristol in the UK, after many years in London and also a few years living out of a suitcase, back and forth to San Francisco and Boston helping to build startups as an entrepreneur.

@kosso calls himself ‘a Createc’, since he designs as well as codes (and all the various back-end and front-end aspects required in between).

@kosso’s last big project was a fully multimedia-powered social network making it easy to share content of any type, from as many devices and existing sources as possible. Before that, he had built some time-based multimedia applications using SMIL which led to his time at BBC News developing systems used by journalists to publish multimedia content to anything from a pocket sized screen to huge billboard-sized jumbo screens around the country.

Tell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

As soon as the App.net API came out at the begninng of August last year, I was on it like a shot. I had been in the middle of putting together yet another mobile multimedia site to make it easy to share photos, video and audio from a mobile to any of the major social networks, as well as have a rudimentary social network built in. I was already in ‘the zone’.

So my goal for my first app called #PAN was to enable easy sharing of *all* the media types – photos, video and audio – to App.net.

All apps were going to do just photos. That bit’s easy. But I’ve been working for many years now, with code to process any media a mobile could throw at it, so it seemed like a great opportunity to build on the API here.

Since then I have also built a service called BLIMS for other app developers to use to enable multimedia uploads in their apps. This uses a part of the App.net API called ‘Identity Delegation’ to connect a user’s account with the service from another app. Clever stuff.

As it happens, I was thinking about this when I spoke to @tonymillion (developer of Rivr) about solving these needs for his app. Now Rivr and other apps such as Dash and Robin on Android and other iOS apps are using it. It also makes sense to collaborate, rather than compete and it’s very rewarding to see other people use other developer’s apps which are using my service too. I’ve built a few things on top of the BLIMS API for App.net users too. Deskface.com and a Chrome Extension called BLIMSHOT which I’m about to get to the WebStore.

App.net’s recent File API has obviously caused me to rethink a few things, but in a good way. I’d much rather the file uploads went on after processing to be hosted in the users’ paid-for App.net filespace. It solves a lot of potential issues from a legal standpoint too, but it shouldn’t change the great experience you get from browsing through the bli.ms site and connecting with people’s posts on a visual level, rather than always reading things. I’ve found people through it I might not have otherwise connected with. Multimedia rules!

http://bli.ms/3229

What qualities make a great app?

Simplicity and no-brain-required ease of use. It’s very hard to whittle down ideas and plans for an app into its simplest form. Especially if there are core (and unique) features which you need to get in. I struggle with this all the time.

Sometimes I like very simple ‘does one thing’ apps. But I always very much enjoy to use and build ‘swiss army knife’ apps, which perform a multitude of related tasks. As long as the experience is enjoyable and I can tell the developer has put a lot of effort into it, I tend to appreciate that a lot in an app.

Another thing that makes a great app is great testers. With good feedback (and responses!) comes a better app for as many people as possible. It’s great to have so many other pairs of eyes go over things I build and pick up on things I’ve missed. I couldn’t do it without them.

 

What tools are important to you as a developer?

My laptops go with me everywhere. Day and night. I’ve been on Apple for a few years now after very many years on Windows and find that I’ve saved literally hours not having to keep cleaning out malware and trojans etc. since making the switch. It was also a requirement for developing for iOS devices. It’s incredible to think that what I used to have to use a honking great desktop machine for, I can now do on an 11 inch MacBook Air. And then some.

I write most code in a basic text editor, so that and Photoshop are my main tools. I’ve never been a fan of IDEs. I’ve recently started using Sublime Text 2 and after a bit of getting used to, I’ve found it to be a great time saver in writing the PHP, JavaScript and Python I’ve been needing to do my work and get things done faster. I’m very much at /home (see what I did there?) on the command line to various Linux boxes I have to set up and keep running.

I’ve also been using Titanium by Appcelerator to build iOS and Android apps since their early days, so I’ve seen their tools and SDK evolve over the years into a hugely powerful system which enabled and empowered me to use my existing JavaScript skills to build native apps on both platforms. It’s also taught me a great deal about the underlying Objective-C and Java too, as I need to build and extend their SDK with modules to do specific things, like record audio etc.

bli.msWhy did you decide to build something on App.net?

I can’t resist a good API. I instantly knew that what was available here was exactly what I needed from the standpoint of someone who has been building social networks for many years, and on them too.

Also, the fact that I paid for it. I’m a customer, not a product. That’s very important to me. In fact, I’d been talking along these lines to people (including my mother!) around the time @dalton did his blog post about the idea to start with. We’re on the same page. There’s also the fact that when the doors opened here, there were no apps at all and a user base hungry for them, so they could use this new network on the move. There’s a market. It’s also just damn good fun.

The experience back when the API opened here, with all the developers on the network was absolutely fantastic as the new features rolled out. It was great to be a part of the start of something which I felt had great potential and feel even more so now.

 

What got you started writing code?

I had a Sinclair ZX-81 when I was about 10 years old (which I still have in working order!) which got me interested in the whole logic going on. I have a very logical mind and I really enjoy solving puzzles, so it struck a chord with me. I love to learn new things. Also my father has a very technical background, so in many ways, I’m a silicon chip off the old block. ;)

 

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Yes. Please give up coding and go get a different job in Starbucks or something and stop eating my lunch!! :)

Only joking, of course. The best advice is to never give up. Use Google. You’ll always find that someone has had the same problem as you somewhere and has had the question answered. To begin with, you might be intimidated by the way experienced developers talk online, with their vast knowledge of things you don’t yet understand, but you will more often than not find that most of them are the nicest and smartest people you’ll ever meet who are more than willing to help you solve an issue and get you on your way.

The main thing to remember is we’ve all been through it. We all had to start somewhere.

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!

 

 

When you’re not coding you’re…

If I’m not out watching live music, I’m usually always thinking about apps and code and ideas for apps. I’m cursed as an ‘ideas person’, always coming up with something. Day and night. I never stop. I also like a good Guinness. :)

I love brainstorming and bouncing ideas back and forth in my spare time (if there is such a thing), so for the past couple of months I’ve been collaborating and brainstorming with a great user I met on App.net called @michelelewis who isn’t a developer, but she totally ‘gets it’ when it comes to knowing what’s needed and what might be a good idea or not for the things we want built for all the growing amount of users out there. We make a great team. It’s lots of fun.

Being a lone codeslinger can be great most of the time, and it can be great working with other developers. It’s also great to be working with someone who isn’t a dev to get feedback about the big picture and the experience rather than the technical intricacies. @michelelewis is very much a part of the core BLIMS-powered team/engine/’empire’ (lol) now, helping me keep my ducks in a row and in order when it comes to the products I’m building and creating great fun things for the future, while creating order from the chaos in my app-riddled mind. It’s made me more productive and efficient.